This is predictably being spun as a big loss for Trump.
Indeed, Trump could not have played the state any worse than he did–endorsing the loser in the primary, withholding an endorsement and staying mum on the GOPe’s not mere abandonment but opposition to Moore until the 11th hour, endorsing Moore at said 11th hour, and then seeing Moore lose in a state that gave Trump one of his largest margins last November. Sad!
These are tactical errors largely attributable to Trump playing nice with the GOPe, however. The exit polling shows that the long game looks promising for MAGA Republicanism. Among those who voted yesterday, 48% approve of Trump. By comparison, 43% have a favorable opinion of the Republican party and just 16% (!) have a favorable opinion of Mitch McConnell.
Trump is more popular than the GOP brand. Consequently, said brand is being dragged, kicking and screaming, away from both the ‘bible-thumping’ religiosity of Roy Moore and the Chamber of Commerce cuckery of Ed Gillespie. The two recent high-profile Republican defeats were not of populist MAGA men but of, separately, values voters and big business, two factions of the Republican coalition whose glory days are in the past and for whom the future looks grim.
Additionally, Trump’s last-minute endorsement probably helped Moore. It wasn’t enough to close the gap (that Fox News, to its credit, appeared to have identified), but it likely did the judge more good than harm:
Those sitting on the fence until the end broke decisively for Moore, and those who said Trump factored into their voting decisions favored Moore over Jones by a 3-to-2 margin.
Takeaway for Team Trump? Get behind MAGA men (and women) in the 2018 mid-terms.
Parenthetically, blacks were clearly a lot more enthused than whites, especially rural whites. Sparsely populated Winston county, to the northwest of Birmingham, saw turnout cut nearly in half from 2016 to 2017 (with the latter year bringing out just 55% of what last November did). In contrast, Jefferson county, which includes Birmingham, saw turnout this time around that was 76% of 2016’s. I’ve only eyeballed figures from county to county, but this appears to be a pretty consistent pattern across the state.
Finally, to end on a positive note, we keep hearing (and hoping!) that Gen Z, the generation with its back against the wall, may just be the one that delivers us all. In that vein, then, some encouragement:
Those under 25 (the oldest Zs are currently 22) went more heavily for Moore than those in their later twenties and those in their thirties did. Keep in mind that the younger the cohort, the less white the cohort, so this suggests that the front wave of white Zs went 10+ points stronger for Moore than white millennials did, and about as strongly for him as white Xers did. And this not for a god-emperor shitlord but for a stodgy old tradcon who wore a cowboy hat and rode a horse to vote!